How Parental Controls Work

1 Introduction

Today's fast paced digital world means greater access to larger and larger pools of information. Everyone's reach and access to information and media grows daily, including your children. It can be daunting to keep track of everything your child does online. Parental Controls can help you keep track of what your child is doing, as well as guide them to what you consider safe and best, so they can grow into responsible adults.
Before You Begin:
  • Have access to all the devices you want to setup.
  • Have access to your device to setup the controls themselves.
Parental Controls

What Parental Controls Are Not

It is vitally important to understand what all Parental Controls can't do, first, to make sure there's no false expectations or ideas on what these technologies will provide.

Parental Controls Are Not Parental Replacements
Parental Controls do not replace parentsThere is no better Parental Control than you. Being involved in your child's life, both on and offline is the single best way to ensure they're making healthy choices that are best for them. Like any other aspect of your child's life, your guidance is invaluable to help them grow to be responsible adults.
Parental Controls Are Not Magic
Not magicParental Controls, in virtually all cases, rely on very simple yes-or-no questions. While this can be powerful, it cannot account for gray areas, or if a child is more or less mature in some area of their development. No computer can guess your wants and needs for your child. At the same time, no computer can tell when your child is ready for more responsibility. Only you can.
Parental Controls Do Not Grow Automatically
Does not grow automaticallyMost Parental Control options have no way to tell the age of your child; physically, mentally, or emotionally. A computer cannot determine when your child is ready for a new, more adult topic to be introduced to them. Meaning, you will need to make changes regularly to any and all Parental Control options you set. As your child grows, so too must the rules you setup. Expect to return to any settings you make on a regular basis.
Parental Controls Are Not Perfect
Not perfectNo Parental Control system is perfect. They are a series of rules you put into place with an expectation of them being followed. Much like any other rule, your child will test their boundaries and cross them from time to time. This isn't the 'fault' of a Parental Control feature, but rather a simple facet of growing up. As with all things, it presents an opportunity for you to discuss a situation and guide your child down the best path.

What Parental Controls Can Help With

There are areas where Parental Controls are great tools to help you in guiding your child to make better choices.

Time Limits
Time LimitsYou can setup rules to limit screen time, to help enforce a bed time or curfew, or just to limit 'screen time' that your child uses their mobile phone or computer.
Monitoring and Tracking
Monitoring and TrackingYou can review the information your child accesses and follow your child's footsteps online. In the case of smartphones with built-in GPS, you can even check-in on where your child is provided they have their phone with them.
Content Limits
Content LimitsBased on rules you setup, you can restrict access to some content, or make it more difficult for your child to access such content. While no system is perfect, this can provide some layers of protection for your child from accidentally accessing questionable content.
You will likely need to use multiple different Parental Controls to achieve the results you want.

2 The Different Levels of Parental Controls

Where Parental Controls Work

There are multiple 'levels' or 'places' you can enact Parental Controls, and what each can provide varies wildly depending on the hardware and software being used.

Network Level
Network Level Parental ControlsNetwork Level Parental Controls would be set usually on your home Internet connection's router, and apply to all computers and devices in your home. These depend heavily on what your router manufacturer has made available, and only apply to devices inside your home. Your child's smartphone while they are at school, for example, would be unaffected.
Device Level
Device Level Parental ControlsThese apply only to the device itself. While dependent on what kind of device is in use, they will apply no matter where the device is, or what kind of connection is being used.
Application Level
Application Level Parental ControlsThese apply to the application or platform in use. For example, a specific web browser or a specific video streaming platform. Nothing else is affected.
There is no "one size fits all" solution when it comes to Parental Controls. On top of working with your child, you will most likely want to implement two or all three levels to provide the best environment for your child to safely learn and grow.

3 Network Level Parental Controls

Network Level Parental Controls

Settings at the Network level are taken care of using your Router's management interface, usually a webpage you visit. Changes you make will only effect devices connected to your home network.

In most cases, you can:

  • See what devices are connected to your home network.
  • Setup schedules for when devices will have Internet access.
  • Completely block certain devices from accessing the Internet.
  • Stop new devices from connecting to your home network.

In some cases, you can:

  • Restrict content devices on your home network can access.
  • Check logs to see what content has been accessed by devices on your home network.
The way each router works is slightly different, and we have multiple guides available to help you through those settings.
If you are unsure who makes your router, look at the bottom to see the manufacturer and model.

4 Device Level Parental Controls

Device Level Parental Controls

Settings at the Device level are usually taken care of on the device itself, using multiple profiles.

In the case of mobile devices like tablets or smartphones, it's usually taken care of by a separate app you install, then manage from your own device.

For game consoles, you manage the settings from a webpage or the device itself.

In most cases, you can:

  • Restrict access to content based on ratings made by ratings boards
  • Limit screen time
  • Review recent activity
  • Block purchases at integrated online stores
  • Block certain Apps or Programs

In some cases (such as smartphones):

  • Track the location of the device
  • Make the device make a noise to locate it in your home
  • Remotely wipe the data on the device

5 Application Level Parental Controls

Application Level Parental Controls

Parental Controls at the application level tend to be taken care of inside the application itself, or a website setup by the company.

In most cases, you can:

  • Restrict purchases
  • Restrict content based on ratings board recommendations
  • Disable features

In some cases, you can:

  • Disable online features
  • Set up a special kid-friendly mode
In many cases, Application Level controls are integrated into Device Level tools, to provide a more robust solution that covers lots of different options.

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Today's fast paced digital world means greater access to larger and larger pools of information. Everyone's reach and access to information and media grows daily, including your children. It can be daunting to keep track of everything your child does online. Parental Controls can help you keep track of what your child is doing, as well as guide them to what you consider safe and best, so they can grow into responsible adults.
Before You Begin:
  • Have access to all the devices you want to setup.
  • Have access to your device to setup the controls themselves.
Parental Controls

What Parental Controls Are Not

It is vitally important to understand what all Parental Controls can't do, first, to make sure there's no false expectations or ideas on what these technologies will provide.

Parental Controls Are Not Parental Replacements
Parental Controls do not replace parentsThere is no better Parental Control than you. Being involved in your child's life, both on and offline is the single best way to ensure they're making healthy choices that are best for them. Like any other aspect of your child's life, your guidance is invaluable to help them grow to be responsible adults.
Parental Controls Are Not Magic
Not magicParental Controls, in virtually all cases, rely on very simple yes-or-no questions. While this can be powerful, it cannot account for gray areas, or if a child is more or less mature in some area of their development. No computer can guess your wants and needs for your child. At the same time, no computer can tell when your child is ready for more responsibility. Only you can.
Parental Controls Do Not Grow Automatically
Does not grow automaticallyMost Parental Control options have no way to tell the age of your child; physically, mentally, or emotionally. A computer cannot determine when your child is ready for a new, more adult topic to be introduced to them. Meaning, you will need to make changes regularly to any and all Parental Control options you set. As your child grows, so too must the rules you setup. Expect to return to any settings you make on a regular basis.
Parental Controls Are Not Perfect
Not perfectNo Parental Control system is perfect. They are a series of rules you put into place with an expectation of them being followed. Much like any other rule, your child will test their boundaries and cross them from time to time. This isn't the 'fault' of a Parental Control feature, but rather a simple facet of growing up. As with all things, it presents an opportunity for you to discuss a situation and guide your child down the best path.

What Parental Controls Can Help With

There are areas where Parental Controls are great tools to help you in guiding your child to make better choices.

Time Limits
Time LimitsYou can setup rules to limit screen time, to help enforce a bed time or curfew, or just to limit 'screen time' that your child uses their mobile phone or computer.
Monitoring and Tracking
Monitoring and TrackingYou can review the information your child accesses and follow your child's footsteps online. In the case of smartphones with built-in GPS, you can even check-in on where your child is provided they have their phone with them.
Content Limits
Content LimitsBased on rules you setup, you can restrict access to some content, or make it more difficult for your child to access such content. While no system is perfect, this can provide some layers of protection for your child from accidentally accessing questionable content.
You will likely need to use multiple different Parental Controls to achieve the results you want.

Where Parental Controls Work

There are multiple 'levels' or 'places' you can enact Parental Controls, and what each can provide varies wildly depending on the hardware and software being used.

Network Level
Network Level Parental ControlsNetwork Level Parental Controls would be set usually on your home Internet connection's router, and apply to all computers and devices in your home. These depend heavily on what your router manufacturer has made available, and only apply to devices inside your home. Your child's smartphone while they are at school, for example, would be unaffected.
Device Level
Device Level Parental ControlsThese apply only to the device itself. While dependent on what kind of device is in use, they will apply no matter where the device is, or what kind of connection is being used.
Application Level
Application Level Parental ControlsThese apply to the application or platform in use. For example, a specific web browser or a specific video streaming platform. Nothing else is affected.
There is no "one size fits all" solution when it comes to Parental Controls. On top of working with your child, you will most likely want to implement two or all three levels to provide the best environment for your child to safely learn and grow.

Network Level Parental Controls

Settings at the Network level are taken care of using your Router's management interface, usually a webpage you visit. Changes you make will only effect devices connected to your home network.

In most cases, you can:

  • See what devices are connected to your home network.
  • Setup schedules for when devices will have Internet access.
  • Completely block certain devices from accessing the Internet.
  • Stop new devices from connecting to your home network.

In some cases, you can:

  • Restrict content devices on your home network can access.
  • Check logs to see what content has been accessed by devices on your home network.
The way each router works is slightly different, and we have multiple guides available to help you through those settings.
If you are unsure who makes your router, look at the bottom to see the manufacturer and model.

Device Level Parental Controls

Settings at the Device level are usually taken care of on the device itself, using multiple profiles.

In the case of mobile devices like tablets or smartphones, it's usually taken care of by a separate app you install, then manage from your own device.

For game consoles, you manage the settings from a webpage or the device itself.

In most cases, you can:

  • Restrict access to content based on ratings made by ratings boards
  • Limit screen time
  • Review recent activity
  • Block purchases at integrated online stores
  • Block certain Apps or Programs

In some cases (such as smartphones):

  • Track the location of the device
  • Make the device make a noise to locate it in your home
  • Remotely wipe the data on the device

Application Level Parental Controls

Parental Controls at the application level tend to be taken care of inside the application itself, or a website setup by the company.

In most cases, you can:

  • Restrict purchases
  • Restrict content based on ratings board recommendations
  • Disable features

In some cases, you can:

  • Disable online features
  • Set up a special kid-friendly mode
In many cases, Application Level controls are integrated into Device Level tools, to provide a more robust solution that covers lots of different options.
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